Connections Between Ethics and Morality
Aristotle believed that ethics are not merely whatever someone feels about something. Ethics has to do with virtue, i.e., developing a disposition to act in a right manner that represents the mean between excess and deficiency or depravation. We learn moral virtue principally by practicing to the point that ethical decisions become habitual.
Immanuel Kant’s approach to ethics is categorized as “deontological.” The word has to do with duty and legal obligation. Deontologists (i.e., nonconsequentialists) declare that we are morally obligated to do some things and not others. There are, Kant asserted, “categorical imperatives” that need to guide our ethical decision making. These are rights and wrongs to which all human beings are obligated.
So, when we face an ethical decision, we must opt for that which we want all people to decide (i.e., universality) when confronted with the same situation. Universality is one of Kant’s categorical imperatives. Another universal principle to which we are obligated is how we consider other people: We should regard the other not as a means to as an end—that is, we do not use people to achieve some objective, making them a means—but respond to them in that fashion which represents the best consequence (or end) for them.
Unlike the deontological approach, teleological ethics starts not with the obligation but with the results (i.e., the consequence of the decision). Fulfilling the purpose of something or maximizing the results of a situation becomes the basis for ethical decisions and moral action. Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill advocated making choices that result in the greatest good for the greatest number (i.e., utilitarianism). When that greatest good is realized, the action is said to be ethical.
In this opening week of your course, you select a case study and consider the ethical dilemma presented. Then, you apply the philosophical foundations for ethical decision making that allows you to declare what you believe should occur.
Kraut, R. (2018, June 15). Aristotle’s Ethics: Preliminaries. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.)., The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy (Summer 2018 ed.)Stanford University. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aristotle-ethics/#Prel
Encyclopaedia Britannica Editors. (2008, April 24). Teleological ethics. In Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/topic/teleological-ethics
Westacott, E. (2019, August 31). Moral philosophy according to Immanuel Kant: Kantian ethics in a nutshell. ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/kantian-ethics-moral-philosophy-immanuel-kant-4045398
Be sure to review the Learning Resources before completing this activity.
Click the weekly resources link to access the resources.
Review this week’s Learning Resources, including the two brief case studies in Kidder (1995/2005) regarding a reference librarian and a new plant manager of a nationwide manufacturing firm (pages 13–16).
By Day 3
Choose the ethical dilemma of either the reference librarian or new plant manager (in Kidder, pages 13–16).
Compare the ways that an advocate of Kant’s categorical imperatives and Bentham and Mill’s utilitarian philosophy would counsel the librarian or the new plant manager to act. With which approach do you agree most? Why?